July 14, 2014

Beaver Ponds

I have mixed feelings regarding beaver ponds. I know that they are an important part of a healthy mountain stream/trout ecosystem, but I also find those "busy beavers" to be somewhat annoying on occasion.

A typical rocky mountain beaver dam and pond.

The owner of the pond ... Mr. Beaver.

Here is an example. I have a couple streams or creeks that I like to fish. I have fished them often enough over the years that I know where each of the trout lies will be. You could say that I know each trouts address, if you will. Beaver had been active in the headwaters of the streams but not lower down. But recently I visited a favorite stretch of water only to find that what was running stream bed two weeks ago is now a series of beaver ponds. Those beaver work fast!

I fished the ponds and found that trout had already started to occupy the waters. I know that the ponds promise the possibility of larger trout in the future, but I'm really going to miss that stretch of stream. It was easy to fish and very productive.

One other thing about beaver ponds is that I never really understood the advantage of "tenkara" on still waters. Since I mainly fish fixed-line now I still use my tenkara rods on still waters, but again, I'm not sure it gives me any advantage over a light weight western fly fishing set up.


Does "tenkara" on beaver ponds give me more control over the fly? No, not really, except the longer rod gives me reach around and over snags and debris common to beaver ponds. Does "tenkara" on beaver ponds allow me to manipulate the fly to induce or trigger a take better than western gear could? I don't think so. I can still cause a fly to pulsate or move with a PVC line and long leader. Does "tenkara" on beaver ponds allow me to "keep the line off the water" like when fishing moving waters? No. Generally when I fish beaver ponds I find I break proper form and allow my line to lay on the water surface just like a western PVC line. Does "tenkara" on beaver ponds allow me to cover more water than a western set up would. Well no. In fact, I can't cover nearly as much water with a fixed-line rod. I can cover enough though. Does "tenkara" on beaver ponds allow me to avoid the annoyance of line wrapping around my feet as it does when stripping in PVC line with a western set up? Again no. If I use a long line with my tenkara rod I find the line getting wrapped around my legs as I hand-line the fish in.

In fact, there is only one thing I can find that makes "tenkara" or in better terms, fixed-line fly fishing, better on beaver ponds than using western gear. That is that fighting a trout (or bluegill, or bass, or perch, or....) with a tenkara rod is a lot funner than with any western rod I've ever owned! Even with a nice 1 or 2 wt fly rod, a tenkara rod makes playing the fish far more exciting.

Even a small fish is fun.
But that's it. That's all I could come up with as an advantage. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to talk you out of using your tenkara rod on still waters. And I'm definitely not trying to demean you if you like using your tenkara rod on ponds or lakes. It's just that I have yet to see the advantage over a light weight western set up when it comes to fishing still waters. After all, tenkara as a fishing method didn't evolved on still waters. It was designed for fishing high gradient mountain streams to take fish by having increased control over the drift of the fly.  Amazingly enough, that's pretty much where I have seen its advantage in my fishing as well.

If you like "tenkara" stillwater fishing keep doing it. If you find advantages of fixed-line in your pond or lake fishing by all means keep it up. I'm just saying that for me, I don't see the advantage.

I will keep fishing beavers ponds when I find them, but for the most part, I'll stick with running water -- the faster the better. Hey, it's what I do!

Running water ... now that's what I'm talking about!

Here's a video of the beaver ponds and some of the many fish taken from them:


  1. I can think of one more advantage.....it's still easier and lighter to carry your compact tenkara gear to your beaver pond vs a traditional western gear setup.

    1. Yes, that is another advantage. I agree. I didn't list it here because I didn't hike in very far so I didn't think it was much of an advantage. Still, you are right.

  2. Lighter and more fun, that's enough to keep my hands away from a "western".
    There's is other point i favor to tenkara: Its natural limitations (no reel, etc), makes it more chalenging.

    1. It is more challenging. That is a good point.

  3. I fish tenkara on stillwaters too but think if anything, it's a disadvantage. On most of the stillwaters I fish, you really need distance more than anything and the advantages that tenkara gives you on a stream really don't apply. I suppose I do it because I like the challenge of putting myself at a disadvantage to see if I can overcome it. But really, I should probably just use a regular rod & reel.

  4. In order to take the fullest advantage of the potential lake fishing, PVC Floating Tenkara fly lines cast better into the wind and get longer, drag free drifts than furled and level FC lines can do because the more traditional lines sink and cause unnatural presentation problems. Tapered leaders are also needed to gain a greater separation between the floating fly line and fly patterns being fished to fool wary lake fish, so lake T-anglers need to think and utilize T-tackle and techniques that are beyond the traditional Tenkara methods box.

    In this kind of fishing the line is not held off of the water the way it is in stream fishing, but cast so the floating line drifts on the wind generated surface currents of the lake to gain drag free presentations similar to what is done in stream fishing.

    In lakes timbered down to the water line, the added length that fixed line rods offer over shorter western rods allows casts to be made out into the lakes with overhead, sidearm, and Bow-And-Arrow casts that normal fly casting can't compete with when there is no back casting room. With the Bow-And-Arrow cast, a tapered, hand-tied FC line will give more distance and gentler presentations than a PVC coated fly line can do but, in this situation either line can be made to work and work well.

    The first time I tried to fish an alpine lake and leave my western tackle at home I fished with a friend, who was fishing with a 9' graphite fly rod, for a 5 Wt. floating fly line, and a 9' long tapered leader. John could easily cast 4 to 5 times as far out into the lake as I could with my 12' T-rod and 10 feet of tapered FC line. But the ability to cast all that distance did not translate into more fish being caught by him. We fished completely around a 5 acre lake, going in opposite directions and fishing the same fly patterns. The final tally was 16 trout on the T-rod and 3 trout on the western rod.

    I told John before we started fishing that the fish would be right at his feet in the water a long the shore line. During the time it took John to get his rod out of its case, put it together, put the reel on the rod, then thread the line through the guides and tie a fly onto his leader, I had already caught 3 brook trout. And as is so often the case with western fly fishermen, the ability to cast all that line gave John a false sense of superiority and security. While I was doing everything I could to be as stealthy as I could be because of my limited casting range, I was sneaking along the lake shore, staying behind the tree trunks for cover, crawling behind the boulders and bushes where necessary to make Bow-And-Arrow casts to the shore cruising trout that I had spotted in advance, and had to lead to get them to strike my fly before they would see me and flee. While John walked out onto fallen trees and points in clear view of the fish, and proceeded to cast all the line that he could cast as far out into the lake as he could cast it, to the empty water where there were no fish to be caught. Then to make matters worse, John would invariably pick up and cast out again just as his fly was beginning to enter the most productive water, close to the lake shore. John caught 2 brook trout and one nice rainbow, mostly by mistake. My fish were all brook trout, but every single one had been sighted, stalked, and caught by concentrated effort and design on my part.

    I have had similar experiences a number of times while stillwater T-fishing with other anglers using western fly fishing tackle. So I do not believe that T-tackle is inherently inferior or superior to western fly fishing tackle because of its limited casting range. T-tackle may be superior to western tackle in its speed to get it into action and where there is no or little back casting room. I do believe that the limitations of any kind of fishing tackle are more a matter of the mindset of the angler using that tackle than there are inherent limitations in the tackle, itself, that is being used.

  5. I used hand lines, panfish poles, ultralight spin and 5/6 weight western gear for many years. I only upgraded to the Hirame-ML-3909 per your recommendations a few weeks ago before my latest trip. I fished Sierra Nevada streams and lakes on my last week long trip. My total gear weight was less than 250g including a holding net (and I could probably reduce it now to 150g if I had to). I felt like I had a slight edge on the creeks compared to previous trips but the rod was a bit soft for the strong currents. I never had too much success on lakes before, the most so far with the western 5 weight. But I admit that I am not a very good caster and I always felt I spooked the fish in the lakes. It was hard to get the 5 fish limit reliably with my old equipment. This time the trout on the lakes were very active. I very quickly caught 7-8 inch brook trout, a few rainbows. What I really like is assembly/breakdown in less than 5 minutes (hard to do with western gear). Also the presentation with the thin tenkara line never spooked the fish. Might have been the brook trout being easy to catch! But I watched 2 fishermen casting much better than me on western gear 30 yards away and I think they gave up after 15 minutes (probably waiting for the evening). I didn't see them reeling in any fish. Can't say for sure, but I suspect their gear was too spooky. Based on that single experience (with 5 different lakes in the area) I will stick to tenkara fishing lakes. (No reason to ever schlepp a reel again!) I will know more in fall when I fish lakes in a different area. But so far the advantages are: cost (cheaper than western, more expensive than panfish/hand line), weight (lighter than everything but hand line), fun (oh, those fishes feel like monsters), and calories caught within one hour I can spend on fishing (no catch and release here as I just fish as a side to backpacking).

  6. I know it is an older post- but what kind of set up are you fishing here? What kind of flies and presentation do you use on ponds/lakes?

    Interested in others who fish ponds and lakes on how you approach this type of fishing and your presentation fly combinations.

    1. I was fishing a 340 cm rod with 9' line. I fished subsurface flies. I don't fish ponds/lakes very often. You should contact Karl Klavon (see his comment above), as he fishes lakes regularly. You could probably send him a PM through the Tenkara USA forum.


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